What to Expect During a Breast MRI

A breast MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, takes pictures of the breast with radio waves and a magnetic field. It does not use X-rays, and it can catch problems within the breast that mammograms, CT scans and ultrasound cannot.

A breast MRI typically takes 45-60 minutes, but the patient should plan on spending 1 1/2 hours on the procedure and associated preparations. Several dozen pictures will be taken during the breast MRI.

Beforehand, the patient will be asked to remove any personal items like watches, jewelry, and money. Hearing aids, piercings and credit cards with magnetic strips especially must also be removed, as the MRI will damage them. A hospital gown will be provided for the patient to change into.

During the breast MRI, patients typically lie on their stomachs on a table that is part of the scanner. The technician may use straps to keep the patient’s body in the desired position. They may also put a device called a coil over the breast area. The patient will then be slid into the part of the machine containing the magnet.

Once inside the scanner, the patient will hear the sounds of a fan plus thumping or tapping noises as the pictures are taken. Earplugs or headphones may be provided to help cope with the noise. The patient must stay completely still during the scans, or repeat scans may have to be taken. The patient may be alone in the scanner room, but the technologist will be watching from a window, communicating through a speaker.

Does a Breast MRI Hurt?

The MRI itself does not hurt, although lying on a hard table in one position may get uncomfortable. Claustrophobic patients may have the option of a sedative to help them relax. Patients with metal fillings may feel a tingling sensation in their mouth, and others may feel their breasts heat up. This is normal, and any discomfort experienced with these sensations is temporary.

A patient undergoing a breast MRI should discuss the following symptoms during their appointment:

  • Breathing problems
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Itchiness
  • Dizziness
  • Pain
  • Burning sensation

Other things to bring to the attention of the technician prior to the breast MRI are:

  • Pacemakers or other medical devices containing iron
    Metal fragments in the eyes
  • Gadolinium may cause serious problems in people with kidney failure.
  • Extreme obesity. A very large patient simply won’t be able to fit in the machine.
  • Metal anywhere will interfere with the scanners.

After the MRI, the patient will be able to return to normal activities. The period of getting the results will be discussed prior to the breast MRI. Contact Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center today to talk to one of our breast cancer specialists or schedule your breast MRI. We offer services dedicated to screening, diagnosing and treating breast cancer, and your comfort is our top priority.